In honor of Father’s Day we’re interviewing our dads to find out how their lives changed when we were born and what they learned about love and life as a parent. Today, Kate’s dad.
The other day, I ran across this photo of my family and it gave me a warm fuzzy feeling, even though I have an unfortunate bowl cut in it. My family is just amazing. You’ve seen my sister’s Halloween costume and met my mom for Mother’s Day, so since Father’s Day is coming up this weekend, I wanted to sit down with my dad—aka, the walking encyclopedia of everything—and ask him about his thoughts on being a parent. What he had to say was extremely interesting, and got me choked up. Oh, and I love that he, of course, referenced the two-year period in life where I played basketball. Yes, I went to Mike Krzyzewski’s basketball camp and my dad couldn’t have been prouder. Did you always know you wanted to be a dad?
Yeah, I did. Even at a young age I had a premonition that’s what I wanted. You kind of visualize things in your head, and I always saw having children. Your mom and I got married in 1968 and didn’t have kids until 1978, which our families thought was a little weird—in our generation people had them right off the bat. But I don’t think we ever talked about it before then. Instead of having kids right off the bat when you’re young and then saying, “Well, I didn’t sow my oats,” or “Gee, this is not what I signed on for,” or “This marriage is not quite what I thought it was,” we waited.
How would you say your life was different before you had kids?
Life was definitely a little bit more leisurely. If I was tired, I’d take a nap. But once you have kids, you’re just going by instincts and trying to do the best you can. You can’t be a perfectionist because certain things just don’t get done. You can make detailed plans, but they never work out 100 percent.
What did you think when you found out Mom was pregnant with me.
We were really excited. We’d had a very difficult time—our first child died, and then after that, there was a miscarriage. For years, we’d been organizing our lives around pregnancy, and after the miscarriage, we adopted the attitude of “It’ll happen when it happens.” We felt, “You know, we can’t live like this.” And then it happened right away.
Do you have any regrets about how you raised me?
It all happened so fast — it’s almost like being president. You can’t be perfect. You’re always learning, and once you learn something, you’re onto something else. With you, we read every book and studied Dr. Spock, but by the time Lizz came — you realize it’s not encyclopedic. So now I tell new parents to relax. One major thing is: you still need to keep the marriage going. You need time for each other. You don’t have to be with your child all the time–it’s not necessarily the best thing for them. Get a babysitter and go out on Saturday evenings.
I very fondly remember watching “Star Search” with babysitters and Lizz every Saturday.
Yeah, you can’t be a martyr. Kids are more resilient than you think. And people have done well even with awful parents!
And is there anything about fatherhood that surprised you?
I guess that it’s over so quickly. People always say, “Enjoy it now,” and of course you poo-poo that. But it really is sort of like going up a mountain and then all of a sudden—boom—you get to the other side. And then it’s too fast. And you miss all the moments, whether it’s the PTA or going to your basketball games. But then if you’re lucky and you did a good job—your kids want to spend time with you and know you as a person. Which is just really nice.